Listening In – Part II
- Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Steven: In terms of Christian music, should there even be a contemporary Christian music? Should there even be a Christian Booksellers Association? Obviously, you’re grateful there is; but do you think it’s a matter of being called to different things, of God placing different callings, putting people in different places to do that?
Philip: That’s part of it. And then part of it is just the mechanics of distributors and outlets. Even now, most secular bookstores have in their religion section probably as much New Age and non-Christian religion material [as Christian religion material]. It’s all mixed in there together. They do not give a fair shot to the 46 million Americans who call themselves “born again.”
If one out of three Americans considers himself/herself a born again Christian, you would think, in a bookstore, one out of three products would speak to those people. Instead it’s one out of 3,000. So part of it is just a practical matter.
You’re an artist; I’m a writer, and we’re both trying to make a living. You make a living off a tiny percentage of a product out that’s sold; but if nobody can get that product, you wither. So the Christian booksellers sprang up because those books weren’t in secular outlets. That’s changing a lot. Eventually, secular [outlets] were saying, “Hey, they’re [Christian booksellers] making a lot of money over here; I can sell that, and they don’t care.”
Steven: The old dollar starts calling them.
Philip: They don’t care whether it’s Buddhist, yoga, massage or what! But, for me, the calling is more the platform. Most Christian writers have another platform. Like Chuck Colson: His platform is his history and his current Prison Fellowship [ministry]. Max Lucado’s platform is the pulpit. In fact, most authors who have best-selling books – such as Rick Warren – are people who have another job.
I don’t have another job. My calling is that I’m just an ordinary pilgrim. I don’t have a board [of directors], and I don’t have a group of elders telling me, “Don’t talk about this, and don’t talk about that.” So I sit there in church just like anybody else and try to figure out, “OK, does any of this make sense?” Is it like the pastor tells me it’s going to be; and if my prayers seem dead, is that my fault, is it God’s fault? So it’s a glorious freedom to be able to ask any of those questions. I’m usually pretty intimidated when I ask them, wondering: “Am I the only one?”
Later I find out, actually, most of the people sitting there are also asking, “Am I the only one not getting it?” We live in a culture that’s saying the opposite all day long, and it’s just not easy. For me and for Christian musicians, too, you just have to figure out: What is my calling, and who is my audience? So it’s just being faithful to the calling.
Really, what any artist has is an individual point of view. There’s a quote that says: “I can’t imagine how God could love the particular person that is me; but I can imagine how God is incomplete, that somehow His work, His creation is incomplete without the particular point of view represented by everyone on earth.” So you have to be faithful to that point of view.
And, in my case, it involves a very unhealthy church background; so I have to be honest about that and call it like it is, even though I hurt people sometimes when I do that. Other people say, “This is the body of Christ; you shouldn’t criticize them.” I say, “Well, it doesn’t look a lot like Christ, so it doesn’t have to!” So we just have to figure out our calling and what our point of view is.
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